If you're a baby boomer your mother no doubt cooked from scratch or close to it. Think back and remember how your steak and chicken tasted. Think about its texture, its flavor. Miss it? If you're not a baby boomer you've no doubt been out to dinner at a great restaurant and remember the meal as being sensational. The crusty and airy bread. The pasta texture and flavor you’ve never had at home. A unique dish like balsamic amereno cherries with pork belly or a steak au poivre that was simply killer delicious.  It most likely it was something that restaurant cooked these dishes not only from scratch but with locally sourced, organic ingredients.

 

Grass Fed Strip Steak Au Poivre—Wonderful!

 

In my previous blog “How I lost 40 pounds eating ice cream once a week” I discussed my transition from living the life advertising and big agriculture would have me do transitioning to cooking everything from scratch. And I mean everything. In our home we make every strand of pasta, every hamburger roll, pita bread, English Muffin, every slice of bread. Our sauces are made from local produce and things we grew or from local farms from my wife’s food service CT Farm Fresh Express. We know where are food and ingredients come from. I do not trust any corporation or our government to do us right here. Too many sleazy politician keep their agricultural states financially healthy while pretending to care about our health. So make everything yourself and stop eating out of a package, box and microwave oven. Stop the drive-through fast food game and soda. Stop buying food made by a company who put it in a box or package for you to consume because it’s easy. It’s killing you! 

 

When I suggest someone do the same and transition to scratch cooking the push back I get immediately is ”I don't have the time" (Which is exactly how big agriculture and the advertising campaigns have got you eating out of a box or package) Another one is I don’t know how to cook or. bake. I’ve got an answer for that as you’ll soon read. 

 

Want the best reason to keep an open mind and consider what I’m saying? Just look at the obesity epidemic in our country! You don’t have to go far or on Google. Just go to the mall and look what waddles around the mall! More than 50% are super overweight and they’re ok with it. They want to stuff those Cinnabons and empty carbs and sugar from the food court and embrace their curves and such. Hey…let me not judge an overweight person. I was on seriously overweight dude…I just shed the reasons for carrying the weight and decided I wanted my cardiovascular system to work less hard, to stay out of the OR for back surgeries and knee replacements because I was carrying around 40 pounds of Crisco around my belly, legs, and ass. Shit…I was on my way to being a weeble like the folks at the mall I just mentioned…those children of the corn syrup. These are very people who eat franchised food, processed foods, sugary drinks, and all of the things you're not supposed to but do anyway because they “don't have the time.” Since I lost my weight my blood pressure returned to normal and I then stopped taking the prescription medications that used to keep it low when I was a dough boy. 

 

What if I told you it takes me literally 30 minutes a week to prepare my family bread needs? Because it does! It just takes a little planning. And boy, will your grocery list change for the better! You will spend less, eat what seems like 5-Star restaurant meals every night! You’ll lose weight and keep the weight you've lost off…all while improving your health outlook without doubt.

 

Have you ever dined at La Marea in old Saybrook? Or Rustica in Chester, CT? These are two restaurants that make many of their meals, if not all of them, from scratch. They make their pastas and ravioli from semolina, flour, water, eggs, salt, and oil…just like I do at home.  It has 5-Star reviews as a result! It keeps people coming back because they want that incredible tender delicious meal intense flavor and wonderful texture and aroma!  The tender pastas you can’t get out of a box. The  sweet marina sauces cannot be had out of a jar nor the savory steaks that are grass fed and sides that aren't out of the can or freezer.

 

 

When I think about it, the restaurants I frequent are those that cook from scratch! Especially since I have committed to becoming a scratch cook myself I seek only those restaurants that do prepare there foods from scratch with the best local ingredients possible. It's more expensive at these restaurants because eating at  their competitors you get dishes that are composed from ingredients procured from Cisco, US foods or Restaurant Depot in Hartford. These folks are simply or heat and serve cooks. In fact it's hard to even say the word chef or cook in that sentence.

 

In future blogs on food I will share a recipes and the technique along with a photo of the dish for you to consider cooking yourself. I’ll also include a photo of the finished dish what will taste as good at it looks it you take me up on this. 

 

Family Ties

One of the most important reasons to cook from scratch and to make a family meal each day is to Bring your family together and get closer. Now that’s an ancillary benefit beyond better health, taste and enjoyment then I can think of. 

 

Mick’s Rustic Bread Recipe

 

 

Allow me to share my favorite rustic bread recipe which takes literally five minutes to make, no special tools boring gradients to have on hand! This is what it will look like and it tastes as good as it looks!

 

If you've never baked or cut from scratch don't use that as an excuse either. While I have been quite an accomplished chef for years, I virtually didn't know baking it all when I decided to go scratch completely I had to learn everything and it was easy with YouTube. Finding a variety of recipes to follow and to tweak to your liking is also easy. Until six months ago hi big nothing at all like I do today. I learned how to do this following the people I chose to watch on YouTube!

 

Ingredients: 

Flour (Suggest Caputo 00 Chef’s flour)

Water

Salt

Instant Dry Yeast (IDY)

 

Start with whatever flour amount you wish. For a nice boule cooked in a 3.5 qt. Dutch Oven I use 450-500 grams of Caputo 00 Chefs Flour (I should mention that if anyone reading this it Is gluten intolerant and not silly at that you'll love to know that using this flower we'll have you eating delicious bread with gluten without the side effects you had while eating the hybridized American flower found in today's all-purpose flowers you find at the grocery store. I’ll be writing a blog on this topic alone as it’s a big discovery. 

 

78% h2o (I use 40° centigrade water in a warmed stainless steel bowl.)

2% NaCL

1% IDY

 

By using the percentages above whether you're starting with 500 g of flour for 1500 g of flour your results will not vary. So if you need to make 10 loaves, no problem!  Start with 5000 grams of flour and add the other ingredients by percentage weights.  The advantage of working with weight instead of volume for your measurements mean that you're results won’t vary! You can count on a great loaf of bread each and every time!

 

If you are familiar with baking you are also familiar with a bakers scale. If not, you can buy one for about $50 and owning one will make it both easy and efficient to bang out your recipes with great aplomb! 

 

If you don’t have a scale then measure the following: 

4c Caputo 00 flour 

1.75c Water water

1tsp Kosher Salt

1.5tsp IDY

 

Process:

1. Place the empty bowl you’re using on top of the scale and press the ‘tare’ button zero it out. Taring the bowl allows you to weight only what two put in the bowl. Once done add the flour…so for a single loaf let’s do 450 grams. 

 

2. Press the “%” button on the  the scale to let it know you’re looking for baker’s percentages for that amount of flour. 

 

3. Press the ’Tare’ button again to reset to zero. Add the salt slowly until you see 2% show up in the display.

 

4. Tare the bowl then add Instant Dry Yeast  (IDY) until you see a reading of 1%. (It is extremely important that you understand the difference between instant dry yeast and active dry yeast. While you can use either you must adjust for the difference. So it's best to use what's called for in the recipe unless you have the experience to convert.)

 

5. Whisk the dry ingredients together.

 

6. Tare bowl again and add 78% water.

 

7. Mix all ingredients together with silicone spatula and expect a very sticky dough. No kneading necessary.

 

8. Cover it with two pieces of plastic wrap making sure there is no air gaps as it will dry out the surface of your dough while it is proofing. Once you put the wrap on put it in your refrigerator for 24 hours or up to a week.

 

9. When you're ready to bake it take it out of the refrigerator and place it on top of the oven. Put your Dutch oven, preferably cast iron, with its lid on in your oven a rack so it’s in the middle of the oven and crank your dial to 450° convection if you have it. 475° if yo don’t. Once the oven comes to temperature continue to heat the Dutch oven empty inside for another 10 to 20 minutes.

 

10. When the oven has come to temperature flower your hands well and a clean surface to work on. Scoop the dough out with your dose scraper, spatula, or hands, onto the floured work surface. Again with flowered hands gently shape the ball of dough into a ball. Once the dutch oven has heated it’s 10-20 minutes open the oven and slide out the rack. Take the lid off and set aside. As quickly as you can so as not to lose heat in your oven, scoop the dough up and drop it into the pot. (You’ll get great at this!) 

 

11. Cook the low for the next 30 minutes with the lid on. Take the lid off and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches a Nice golden brown. It makes a better cross if you have a spray bottle with water in it and spray loaf a couple of times in the first five minutes with the lid off which helps improve the crust

 

12. The loaf will fall out of the pan when you take it out of the oven. Place it on a cooling rack until it temperature which you can handle and cut it. It will have that crusty wonderful outside you have found at finer Italian restaurants to do their own bacon and with A soft and tender interior Full of those wonderful holes and gaps to grab your butter and sauce.

 

So there you have it! Five minutes to mix the dough and no meeting. Simply wait four for day for a week and thrown in the oven for 40 minutes and you have a loaf of bread that cost you next to nothing to make, will be as delicious as the best restaurant you remember having good bread that, you better for you, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you're able to produce something so wonderful run for simple ingredients you have in your home

 

Don't hesitate to make comments, write be questions, or keep the conversation going

 

Italian Ciabatta Loaf made with "Biga" or starter.